crowds spent time at the beach in Imperial Beach for
the 2018 Labor Day weekend
— San Diego County welcomed a record 35.8 million
visitors last year, and it hopes to attract even more this
year following the launch of a $19 million advertising
campaign that includes all new TV commercials.
year’s visitation numbers, which are still a preliminary
estimate, mark the eighth consecutive year of growth for
the region, the San Diego Tourism Authority reported
recently. Year-over-year growth was 2.3 percent, with last
year’s visitors spending an estimated $11.3 billion.
tourism bureau is hard-pressed to specifically identify
what is fueling the growth — beyond a generally healthy
tourism economy — air travel to San Diego was up about
10 percent compared to 2017, Tourism Authority research
relies heavily on out-of-towners from closer-in areas such
as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas, so the uptick in
air travel suggests that the county is doing a better job
of enticing people from more distant locations in the U.S.
to vacation or do business here, said Susan Bruinzeel, the
Tourism Authority’s senior director of planning and
though, it is hard to identify which areas of the country
are delivering the most visitors, she said.
to the San Diego Airport Authority, among the largest
growing domestic markets in terms of arriving passengers
were Sacramento; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; St. Louis and
Kansas City, Mo. That’s in part due to expanded nonstop
flights to and from those cities. Overall inbound traffic
from Mexico was up 20 percent, while the number of
arriving passengers on the daily Japan Airlines flight
from Tokyo grew by 8 percent, the airport said.
larger cities such as Los Angeles attract a significant
number of tourists from overseas locations, that sort of
international travel represents a fraction of San
Diego’s visitation. Tourism Authority CEO Joe Terzi
believes that at least some of San Diego’s growth was
helped along by the increased marketing it is doing in
such cities as Boston, New York, Dallas and San Francisco.
group meetings market has been fairly flat, and we’re
seeing a little more business travel,” Terzi added.
“We have limited growth internationally. L.A. has a more
robust business travel market with a huge international
feed into that and the leisure market.
the industry (these) past few years has benefited from a
healthier tourism economy, so we’ve seen significant
growth in pretty much every (U.S.) market.”
weeks, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles County all
reported record visitation, with an estimated 57.6
million, 65.2 million and 50 million visitors,
respectively. Each had slightly higher growth rates than
In a move
to ensure that San Diego is top of mind when people are
making their vacation plans, the Tourism Authority has
begun a broad advertising campaign that includes not only
TV ads in select markets and also nationally, but also
digital ads people will see when they’re searching
online for vacation destinations.
year, the agency spent $15 million, this year’s $19
million spend — the highest ever — takes into account
more costly network advertising. For instance, 30-second
TV spots will air nationally on ABC during February and
across CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV and NBA TV through April
as part of a March Madness/NBA media sponsorship. The
overall marketing campaign will run through June.
also be spot TV advertising in eight different cities,
from Sacramento and Seattle to New York and Minneapolis,
plus digital ads on online travel sites such as
TripAdvisor, Expedia and Priceline.
which are new for this year, have a joyful theme as
they’ve always had, but instead of last year’s “A
San Diego Summer Feeling,” this campaign has been dubbed
“Something to Smile About.”
three commercials, one intended for a general audience, a
second for families and kids, and a third just for Mexico.
Imagery of people enjoying themselves at the beaches, in
the ocean and at local attractions predominate.
the same messaging — that sunny feeling that San Diego
is all about,” Terzi said. “Our research continues to
support the messaging we do. Our campaigns have had the
highest recall among people we survey who have seen
the Tourism Authority will continue to market San Diego in
eight different countries, including Canada, the U.K.,
Mexico and China.
future travel growth in the coming year, that is expected
to slow somewhat amid more uncertainty in the overall
economy. A recent report by the U.S. Travel Association
predicts that domestic travel will continue to grow,
although more slowly in 2019. International travel, the
trade group said, is projected to “fizzle” in the
first half of 2019.